PORTLAND — Jeff Landgrebe maneuvered his Time Warner Cable truck onto the frozen snow off Center Street, cut the engine and trudged up the shaded sidewalk, talking on a cell phone. He crossed Congress Street and entered an office building, his fingers pecking at a laptop computer.

“At least I’m moving,” he said of working in subzero temperatures. “I used to work for a land surveyor. The guy who’s standing behind an instrument, not moving, is the coldest guy on the planet.”

Temperatures that started plunging Sunday night provided for plenty of cold conversation Monday, when the low at the Portland International Jetport fell to 13 degrees below zero.

That was still 8 degrees shy of the record low for Jan. 24, set in 1948, and much warmer than Portland’s record-low temperature of 39 below, measured Feb. 16, 1943.

Even so, Portland’s temperature hadn’t dipped into the double digits below zero since Jan. 25, 2009, when it reached 12 below, according to the National Weather Service in Gray.

Portland was far from the coldest place in Maine. In Fryeburg, the temperature hit minus 29.

“It’s hard to get teenagers to bundle up, but even they’re putting on their hats this morning,” said Tim Scott, director of development at Fryeburg Academy.

At Sugarloaf Mountain Resort, the combination of cold and wind caused operators to shut down lifts to the summit. Four lower lifts continued running.

“We have a few people skiing – not many,” said resort spokesman Ethan Austin. “There’s a few hardy folks who want to get their turns in, no matter what.”

Others took it in stride.

“It’s a winter day in Maine,” said Maude Gardner of Allagash, in northern Maine, shrugging off a minus 24 reading. After all, it was nothing compared with a minus 46 reading there in January 2009.

Meteorologist James Brown said warmer air arriving from the west may boost today’s readings into the upper 20s in Portland.

Waiting for a thaw wasn’t an option Monday for city employees working to clear built-up snow and ice from streets in advance of the next storm, due Wednesday.

“We got three snow events last week and we’re expecting two this week,” said Eric Labelle, Portland’s assistant director of public services.

In subzero conditions, “the snowbanks become very rigid and the equipment might not break through. It can push the equipment around,” he said.

Labelle said residents can help workers who collect trash and recyclables by not putting containers on tall snowbanks, and by waiting until morning to put them out so items don’t get scattered by winds at night.

Jerry Goss Sr., who operates heavy equipment for snow removal, said he dresses warmly, wears gloves and stays in the heated cabs. Replacing broken shear pins for a snowblower means braving the elements.

“Because if we stop,” he said, “people aren’t going to be able to move around the city.”

Sam Marcisso scrambled Monday to provide enough technicians from his Pine State Energy to take care of homeowners and companies that had frozen pipes or failing furnaces.

“It hasn’t been this way in a few years,” he said. “It’s good for business but bad for the folks who have to deal with it.”

A Pine State crew spent much of Sunday evening repairing a heating system in Cape Elizabeth that froze while the family was away on vacation. On Monday, Marcisso’s company, based in South Portland, sent 14 technicians on no-heat and freeze-up calls.

Among Marcisso’s recommendations is opening the doors on cabinets housing pipes that are prone to freezing. Make sure garage doors are closed. And if you have a little-used bathroom with an exterior wall, flush the toilet occasionally.

“Moving water won’t freeze,” he said.

What about land surveyors who don’t move?

Indeed, they get cold, even though modern electronics have replaced steel tape and mechanical devices that measure angles, said John Swan, president of Owen Haskell Inc. Land Surveyors of Falmouth.

“It’s not very pleasant,” said Swan, who now spends much more of his time in the office than in the field. “You have to take off your gloves from time to time to adjust the instrument, and you’re not moving as much because you’re set up in one spot for maybe an hour or two.”

Surveying is no worse than other outdoor work such as construction, Swan said.

Or being a deckhand on a ferry boat.

John Tracy, a veteran captain for Casco Bay Lines, started his career 27 years ago as a deckhand. He said the key to keeping warm is dressing in layers, even if the passengers occasionally can’t recognize your gender, as happened to a female deckhand recently.

“Our job is one of the colder ones,” he acknowledged. “But when you’re moving, it’s not so bad.”

Working to keep New Year’s resolutions can also be challenging in chilly weather. Karen Morgan, a mom and a stand-up comedian from Cumberland, ventured out Monday morning on the Nordic trails of the town’s Twin Brook Recreation Area.

“I was so proud that I went out and was actually going to do some exercise,” she said of putting her new skate skis to good use. “Then my nose hair froze and I got back in my car. It was pretty sad.”

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at: [email protected]